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December 13, 2012When Scott Martin walks out for the opening tip Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the opponent will look no more familiar than most.
Martin will shake hands with players he doesn't know despite having shared the same uniform. Now in his sixth year of college basketball, Martin is far removed from the freshman out of Valparaiso, Ind., that played in 32 games for Purdue before transferring.
After that season Martin landed at Notre Dame, which will take on the Boilermakers as part of the Crossroads Classic on Saturday afternoon.
"There's obviously always gonna be some ties there," Martin said. "There's still some people around. But in terms of their personnel playing-wise it's a completely different group that I am not familiar with and that sort of thing. Even offensively and defensively they're doing some different things than when I was there. It's a completely different look."
Martin arrived at Purdue the summer of 2007 as part of a highly touted recruiting class that included prep teammate Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E'Twuan Moore.
That coming season the Boilermakers went 25-9, finished second in the Big Ten standings and bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round. Martin averaged 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, but a combination of circumstances had him looking for a new home afterward.
Notre Dame became a logical fit thanks to its proximity and familiarity.
Head coach Mike Brey had recruited Martin and Hummel out of high school and rekindled that relationship. It took about a month for things to come together before Martin decided to join the program.
"We ended up getting him anyways," Brey said. "We should've put our sole focus right there. What I loved about him is what he does today, his feel for the game. They had a heck of an AAU team and they really knew how to play together. I loved watching them beat people because they played the right way on the AAU circuit against teams that were knuckleheads."
Martin sat out the next season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules and prepared for his return to the court. Then, in the run up to what would have been his junior season, the 6-foot-8 forward tore his ACL. It required surgery and forced him to miss the entire season.
Rather than reunite with Luke Harangody for a year, Martin had to miss a second straight year of college basketball.
"I don't know if there's been a more discouraging blow for anybody that's played for me here to mentally get over," Brey said.
Martin returned the next season healthy and has developed into a key cog in the Irish program, serving as a captain the last two years. After last season, Martin's fifth, the NCAA awarded him a another year of eligibility thanks to the previous knee injury.
Former Purdue teammates have since moved on to the professional level. Moore is playing for the Orlando Magic. Johnson has spent time on the Boston Celtics roster and is now in the D-League. Minnesota selected Hummel, a friend since childhood, in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft. He's now playing in Spain.
Meanwhile Martin is making one last trip around the college hoops circuit. Long gone are those initial days at Purdue and the player Martin used to be.
"I think I'm definitely more confident in myself," Martin said. "I believe in what it is I do out there and how I help the team win. Other than that I don't know if it's much different. Maybe I'm a bit more aggressive now than I was. Defensively, I'm definitely much better than when I was there. Much smarter, I guess, if you want to say that. I think it is those four or five years that have helped me mature and grow."
Time has put distance between Martin and his time in West Lafayette, a period upon which he reflects in a positive light. So when it's time to time to play against his former program, Martin expects little more emotion than most games.
"We had some good times and some big wins," said Martin, who is averaging 8.9 points and 7.5 rebounds this season. "I had a lot of friends that went to Purdue from high school so there were definitely some good days at Purdue. I enjoyed myself there."